Poetry & Politics Roundtable           (page 6)
with Joshua Clover, Chris Nealon, & Juliana Spahr

JOSHUA [cont.]: When we do see the moments of contact between movement and poetry, it tends to happen quite insistently along lines of identity. “I Am Joaquin” is a good example. I actually love that poem, it’s the Michael McClure poem I always wanted, that Michael McClure could never write. But if the model of movement poetry is still almost purely the model of identity and recognition, we are well and truly fucked.

I think that might explain Chris’s interest in tracking a kind of identity poetics — queer tonalities — as they sublime into other political vectors and arenas. So, three questions to incite Juliana, who is next, but I would love to hear Chris’s answers as well. One, I think of you as writing explicit political poetry, though certainly more beautiful than strident. Do you do this more because you want to, or feel you should? Two, are there other ways (beyond Chris’s camp messianism) that we can see identity poetics seeping into other political dynamics? And three, does the desire for this sort of transfer of identity poetics to non-identity based politics risk being nothing but that awful desire for everything to return eventually into the care of straight white folks?

JULIANA: In answer to these questions... To the first I would say because I can’t see it otherwise (which I guess is “want to”; certainly there is little social “should” when it comes to writing in one of the most tradition bound and irrelevant of genres to modern society). Although also I’m painfully aware that this writing is no way my militant political action. And I might even see it as the reverse; as the thing that takes up my limited “political” time that might be better spent doing something else. (How “political” poetry might be like voting or facebook petitions, creating an illusion of participation that results in stasis rather than more engaged practices.) In short, I wish I could stop doing this writing of poetry so compulsively.

I’m getting lost in your questions about identity. Even as I have to concede that when we see the “moment of contact between movement and poetry, it tends to happen quite insistently along lines of identity” (and I might add your implied “in the US” there; because often in places without the specific histories of identity formations that the US has, the contact happens around nationalism, often resistant nationalism, and/or resistance). And then I want to say that this focus in the US is a problem. But then I’m reminded immediately that maybe it isn’t. Which seems to be the point of Chris’s interest in camp messianism. I think the questions are important. But I don’t know how to answer them yet. I think this legacy is an important one and yet a mixed one. I don’t worry about it being appropriated by straight white folks much though. Mainly because I don’t see it as really owned by any one identity category. And I also want to read a lot of straight white folk poetry as parallel poetries of identity, even if not claimed that way. What is Ted Kooser’s work but white rural identity politics? Talk about a powerful movement poetry...

« home | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 | next page »